MAUI Short Stops On The North Shore Culinary Tourist Belt
The island of Maui attracts high-end clientele, an array of chefpreneurs creating their own brands and the requisite followings of hole-in-the-wall kau kau joints favoured by the locals and backpacker brigades.
Though there are several glossy free mags devoted to the upper crust of restaurants, they are gourmet payola and not necessarily independent of inducement.
I happen to know the Russo family who operate alt newsweekly Maui Time magazine (http://mauitime.com) which has two great food editions—the Best-of in July and Taste of Maui in September—curated by Culinary, Lifestyle and Business Editor Jen Russo.
It’s here that I’ve discovered the soft underbelly of Maui and tracked the rise of emerging chefs and restaurants. A great recent example is Sheldon Simeon who started out a couple of years ago at the people’s palace Aloha Mixed Plate, then created Star Noodle bar in Lahaina and then launched Leoda’s Kichen and Pie Shop on the road near the snorkeling haven of Olowalu. His new venture is upperclass MiGrant in Wailea in partnership with rock star and chef manager Shep Gordon.
I’ll be heading to MiGrant at the end of this trip but started at the Star for a short hit of their scallop shooters with one of their trademark ramen soups.
STAR NOODLE 286 Kupuohi Street, Lahaina 808 667 5400 http://www.starnoodle.com
Located in an industrial area up hill from the main hghway, there’s a trick to finding it but the destination is worth the effort. As the name implies, it specializes in soup and fried or fresh noodles from local style mixed plate to ramen, Singapore, Hokkien and ‘long rice’ styles. But it also has an admirable line up of starters that includes a to-die-for kim chee, a fiddlehead Pohole Fern salad and steamed pork buns. I can’t go past the scallop shooters to start and one of the daily special cocktails which are always mind-blowing.
LEODA’S KITCHEN & PIE SHOP 820 Olowalu Village Rd., Lahaina 808 662 3600 http://leodas.com
Heading out of Lahaina town in the village of Oluwalu is Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, just about the time you might be getting hungry or want to take a surf or snorkel at the beach adjoining the road.
It’s a great place for breakfast with generous portions, sandwiches and salads but also savoury and sweet pies which are their specialty. Try a plantation ice tea which is mixed with pineapple juice for a road refresher.
MISO PHAT 4310 Lower Honoapiilani Hwy #111, Kahana| 808-669-9010 http://www.misophatsushi.com
Nigiri and Sashimi style sushi as well as everyone’s favourite sushi rolls and temaki hand rolls are the attraction here, made with the freshest fish available, most often from owner’s own boat Shiso Phat. Chef Ahren has been in the rice-rolling business for 19 years and the tiny shop with adjoining merch store is a magnet for sushi fans without an pretension.
I started with four pieces of nigiri ahi sushi that were from the tuna belly, perfectly sliced, zingingly fresh with the correct consistency of rice. They also served fresh wasabi root rather than powdered and the soy is Japanese brewed, not local.
I couldn’t tackle a nine-piece roll but their specialty rolls are luscious. I opted instead for a temaki hand roll of seaweed sheet around spicy tuna hit with a few surprises inside. On top of this, I was given a fried rice ahi and avocado/tomato sushi strip as a bonus.
Further up the North Shore in Kapalua, bordering Napili is a top end restaurant for that special occasion. Views to die for, incredible live music of the jazzy sort, unique cocktails of the exotic style, a huge wine list and classic food dishes in the Hawai’I Regional Cooking style.
MERRIMAN’S KAPALUA 1 Bay Club Road, Lahaina 808 669 6400 http://www.merrimanshawaii.com/kapalua/
It’s the most stunning waterfront location on the island and the creation of Peter Merriman, one of the founding chefs of the Regional movement whose first restaurant is a cottage up in the hills of Waimea on the Big Island.
Right on the bay with a small private beach, a rocky point that leads to the island of Lanai opposite,waving palm trees, fire pits and a huge open dining room that takes full advantage of the view, Merriman’s is a must stop place even for just a cocktail. And yes they do have a happy hour with the bar just nestled over the surf.
I opted this time, my second, for a pupu platter which is a mix of four appetisers instead of the extensive choice of mains and apps. They were:
Keahole Lobster, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Eden Farms Kurobuta Kalua Pig and Sweet Onion Quesadilla
Tamimi Tomatoes and Kula Strawberries Salad
Hawaiian Ahi Poke
I also had to have their Diver Sea Scallops with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Creamed Local Corn and Sweet Pepper Relish.
The drink was Kula than a Mojito with Hendrick’s Gin, Aperol, fresh mint, grapefruit juice and Kula Strawberries.
A great way to cap off n incredible tour of Maui with a stellar sunset to match.